Visiting the universities that interest you is the best way to find out about the courses on offer and to view the facilities provided.
Usually an open day includes campus and departmental tours, giving you the opportunity to talk to staff and current students and possibly attend taster lectures. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic your only option may be to attend a virtual open day. This won’t be the same as visiting in person but it’s still a great opportunity to get a feel for where you could be studying in a year’s time.
In advance of the open day
- Check that the open day you are planning to attend covers the subject or subjects you want to investigate. General open days cover all subjects but some universities hold subject specific open days.
- Book your place at the open day (if required) in advance of the actual event. Do this online on the university website or at OpenDays.com .
- Look at the programme and decide which activities and talks you want to attend. Don’t leave it till the last minute as places at on-site departmental talks and tasters may be allocated on a first come first served basis. Note: the content of a virtual open day won’t be as varied as an open day at the university itself but can include online seminars, virtual tours and chats with current students or staff.
- If you are travelling to an open day plan how you will get there. It’s a good idea to take details of the venue, where to go on arrival and a campus map.
On the day
- If you are visiting the university try to attend at least one or two subject talks, sample lectures, taster activities or department visits. If your parents have come with you there may be separate parent activities they can attend.
- Take a tour of the university, Student Union venues and accommodation. Virtual open days may offer a virtual tour and you can use interactive maps to check out the buildings and areas relevant to the course that interests you.
- If you have travelled to an open day explore the local town/city itself if you have time.
- Ask questions of as many people as you can. Many virtual open days hold live webinars and chats so that you can talk to lecturers and students. If there isn’t a live chat you can use Unibuddy on the UCAS website which has representatives from universities around the UK.
Questions to ask
The main areas to investigate are shown below. Your course choice should be top of the list of things to find out about. You need to work out whether you want to spend three or more years focusing on this subject(s). The questions that follow are examples – decide what you want to ask;
Getting a place
- What’s the ratio of applicants to places?
- What personal qualities or relevant experience are admissions staff looking for in the personal statement?
- Are applicants interviewed as part of the selection process and if so, what is the purpose and nature of the interview?
- How flexible is the university likely to be on results day if my grades don’t quite meet the offer I’m holding?
- Are places likely to be available in Adjustment or Clearing?
- How is the course taught and assessed?
- Are study abroad opportunities available as part of the course?
- What links does the department have with employers?
- Is the course accredited by the relevant professional body? (applicable to vocational courses)
- How successful are graduates from this course in obtaining employment? What type of jobs do they enter?
- What are the library/IT facilities like?
- What support services does the university provide? Eg job shop, careers service, counselling service, financial advice, medical/dental centre, chaplaincy.
- What support is available for students with additional needs? How can I access that support?
- What opportunities does the university provide to help students develop employability skills?
- What type of university accommodation is available and what are the costs?
- How far is the university accommodation from other university facilities and from the local city or town centre?
- When can I apply for university accommodation and how does the application process work?
- What help is available to arrange accommodation in the private sector?
- What university sports are available and what are the sports facilities like?
- What social activities, clubs and societies does the Student Union organise/support?
- What is the social life like in the local town/city? Are there cheap student deals/nights out/places to eat?
Location/travel and transport
- How far is the university from the nearest town/city centre?
- How far is the university from the nearest rail station or coach station?
- If I need to use public transport to get about what will it cost me?
- Are students allowed to bring a car to the university?
- What bursaries, scholarships or fee waivers does the university offer? How can I apply?
- Will I be able to find part time work in term time?